Emotional Design


Emotion is a core part of the human psyche and determines how we react to the world around us, but its importance is rarely emphasised in the design of web applications. The benefits of designing for emotions are myriad. Aesthetically pleasing and delightful application experiences are rated as being more usable, even when they aren’t. Delighted users tend to engage with apps and websites for longer periods.

Emotions connect us to the content of an application and make an application feel ‘alive’. Emotions in content relate directly to the nature of the underlying data: the context-sensitive personality of an application showcases extraordinary attention to detail, a visually appealing interface will unite your content with your audience and enhance the user experience. Emotional design can make all the difference

Design is emotion with a purpose. The two, emotion and design, are intrinsically linked. Design must establish an emotional connection, or evoke meaning through formal, functional, and cultural elements — in much the same way that our minds understand meaning through a synthesis of semiotic information and abstraction.

Emotion is, therefore, a highly valuable factor in a positive user experience and a crucial driver of a successful product. Yet, design is still a very unrefined science, prone to human error and interpretation. By contrast, cognitive psychology and neurological research has extensively examined the role of motivation, attention and emotion in human perception and behaviour, demonstrating quite clearly that emotion is one of the factors that contributes to our interpretation of visual stimuli.

How to design for emotion


Type should always be appropriate as it helps users remain motivated in their actions. It manipulates space and points out places where users should focus. Using a grid or line allows for the type elements to relate to one another.

Visual Design

Although it can be nearly impossible to communicate the right message through images alone, the use of visuals can better communicate the concepts involved. It allows users to understand the interface more easily, interact with it more naturally, and consequently experience it more effectively.
Visual elements can also be used to reinforce specific concepts, as well as surprise, intrigue, and ultimately, delight the viewer.
Visual design is one of the most important principles at work in UI/UX, as it has such a strong effect on the perceived user engagement with content and navigation. Music, too, is an aesthetic tool, and crucial in this context to solicit emotions from the user.

Visual appeal

Elements should be arranged in an attractive and balanced way and the overall design should suggest an order and help users predict actions.
Visual hierarchy: You will allow viewers to see what’s most important, or direct viewers towards related short-term actions or signifiers.

Visual impact

Communicate how something will happen, provide a signature for a screen, or boldify an action.
Voice and tone: In most products, you will be able to encourage responses and orientations from users from a combination of words, tone and writing style. Storytelling is another tool to help the user engage more intimately with your brand.

Visual cues

Your design should point out ‘clickable’ objects, like buttons, links, and proper nouns. Allowing viewers to come to their own conclusions through their own intuition is a great way to avoid disruptions, interruptions and superfluous actions.

Ensure that the personality and ethos of your product or service is reflected in your marketing tools.
Give visual assets the same importance as any other part of a product. Every visual element needs to be considered, not just the final page.

Tim Brown, President, IDEO.com, writes on the subject in Design By Numbers:

“Infuse every pixel with personality”